The release of the Baker-Hamilton Commission report on Iraq yesterday was greeted by most conservatives and liberals with utter disdain. The editors of National Review wrote, “Welcome to the non-reality-based world of bipartisan commissions. Even commissions flying under the banner of realism, such as the James Baker/Lee Hamilton–led ISG, inhabit that world.” And writing for The American Prospect, Spencer Ackerman opined, “This is new lipstick on a very old pig. Despite what the commissioners said at today’s press conference, it’s just a marginal tinkering with the years-old strategy of ‘putting an Iraqi face’ on security operations.”
Yet the beltway media, as personified by NBC Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert, couldn’t stop gushing about the commission’s “passion” and “boldness”:
RUSSERT: This was such a sobering report. Powerful. Passionate. Bipartisan. Unanimous. I think it’s not only a wake-up call for the Bush White House, but for the whole country. We are in very difficult straights.
RUSSERT: I mean, when you sit here and read these recommendations, it is numbing how passionate, how bold they are, and how bleak the assessment is.
Washington Post columnist David Broder was even more enthused:
Whatever the final impact of the Iraq Study Group report being issued today, for the 10 commission members this was an exhilarating experience, a demonstration of genuine bipartisanship that they hope will serve as an example to the broader political world.
What we have here is a classic case of what former Washington Post political editor John Harris called, “instinct for rationalist, difference-splitting politics” among the beltway’s political reporters:
I sometimes think that if Washington political reporters ran the government their ideal would be to have a blue ribbon commission go into seclusion at Andrews Air Force base for a week and solve all problems. It would be chaired by Alan Greenspan and Sam Nunn. David Gergen would be communications director, and the policy staff would come from Brookings and the American Enterprise Institute. They would not come back until they had come up with sober, centrist solutions to the entitlements debate, the Iraq war, and the gay marriage controversy.
Sounds eerily like what Baker-Hamilton commissioner Alan Simpson told Broder:
Simpson was even more expansive. “This could be an example, not only of how to handle Iraq, but it could apply to immigration, Social Security and all those other things that have been hung up for so long. That’s what this last election said: Get serious and get your work done.”
I hope Washington is listening.
Of course Washington is listening. How could it not? The downside is that so is Iran:
Ali Larijani, Iran’s national security adviser, said in an interview that a U.S. plan for removing “occupation forces” from Iraq would be considered “a sign of a change in strategy.” In that case, he said, “Iran would definitely extend the hand of assistance and would use its influence to help solve the problem.”
Yeah. I’ll bet it would.
UPDATE: Powerful. Passionate. Bipartisan. Completely rejected in Iraq:
BAGHDAD, Dec. 6 — The Iraq Study Group’s prescriptions hinge on a fragile Iraqi government’s ability to achieve national reconciliation and security at a time when the country is fractured along sectarian lines, its security forces are ineffective and competing visions threaten to collapse the state, Iraqi politicians and analysts said Wednesday.
They said the report is a recipe, backed by threats and disincentives, that neither addresses nor understands the complex forces that fuel Iraq’s woes. They described it as a strategy largely to help U.S. troops return home and resurrect America’s frayed influence in the Middle East. [...]
“It is a report to solve American problems, and not to solve Iraq’s problems,” said Ayad al-Sammarai, an influential Sunni Muslim politician.
Actually, it doesn’t solve our problems either.